The Temple Beth El, a Detroit Gem, to Be Restored

photo: S2_WORSHIP_BRF_Bethel_2514.jpg

caption: Photo courtesy of Bethel Community Transformation Center

The historic Jewish synagogue Temple Beth El on Woodward Avenue in Detroit will be transformed into a modern performing arts destination, an interfaith worship space and community center. A coalition of local clergy, community leaders, visionaries and builders known as the Bethel Community Transformation Center has developed a plan to restore the 55,000 square-foot historic Albert Kahn-designed Temple, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

"We want to bring the space back to life, and have it as a worship space and performing arts center," Pastor Aramis Hines told DBusiness Daily News. Hines' church is one of the several organizations currently using the space. "Most importantly, this is going to be a place for reconciliation. The goal is to use this place as a catalyst for greater conversation across different religions and races alike, so that our community can heal and come together in a greater way. We want to use this building to tell the story of Detroit and the impact it's had on (the city's) history."

BCTC is building partnerships with both religious and secular groups across the metro Detroit area to work toward their goal of raising $100,000 for which a Kickstarter campaign has been launched to repair roof damage and get the project started. This will be a years-long, multi-million dollar restoration and renovation project that will create jobs, unite the fractured faith and racial communities, and inspire hope in a better day for Detroit, according to the BCTC website.

Hundreds of volunteers have been engaged to help with the restoration, which Hinds told DBbusiness Daily News will take place in stages, so that the religious and community groups that currently use the space won't be displaced. The first part of the restoration will be focused on the main sanctuary for worship and performance art, followed by maintenance to the building's elevators and facilities. Next will be improvements to the gym and social spaces, and finally renovations to the four levels of smaller auditorium space, classrooms, and offices, were many community groups such as the Castle Group and the Pheonix Center currently operate.

Hinds is also collaborating with Rabbi Ariana Silverman, who is on the BCTC's board of directors, noting that the goal of the renovation is to strengthen the interfaith community and give people a place to come together. There are also plans for the Jewish Historical Society to have an exhibit in the new building, to provide additional educational opportunity regarding Detroit and its history.

Hinds said after securing funding for initial repairs, the project will search for an architect that specializes in historical preservation, because they want to retain as many original designs as possible. More information about fundraising for the project can be found online.

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